Saturday, August 31, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Over the summer our family fell off the "clean eating" wagon. Life circumstances hit and it was quickly moved to the back burner. Not to say that that was the smart thing to do, but that's what happened. I'm not here to pretend to be perfect, judgemental, or holier-than-thou. For about a month and a half, we ate whatever was in front of us, I made quick trips to the store for random necessities and somehow ice cream and Chips Ahoy ended up in my cart. How did that happen? 

While that month and a half reminded me of how good crappy food is, it definitely did a number on our bodies.The kids started having digestive problems again (which is a nice way of saying their poop turned green), I started getting pimples all over my face and gaining weight (shocker there - gain weight eating Fruit Loops everyday? What?), and Chad just generally felt like crap.

Needless to say we have been in bad shape. It bums me out, but I also know that life happens and you can't blame yourself for things you can't control. It also reiterated to me that we NEED to eat this way. It's not a fad, it's not bcs all the cool kids are doing it, it's because our bodies function better when we put real food into it. And now I have the proof I need to continue this food journey.

So what does this have to do with the ooey-gooey cookies pictured above? I have a sweet tooth. Well, most likely they are all sweet teeth, but the point is, I love sugar. LOVE it. And for anyone that loves sugar, you know that it is extremely hard to quit eating it. Over the last year I had learned to control my sugar carvings and even managed to go without anything sugary for a few months. Now that I have re-indulged in things like sugar cereals, ice cream, and cookies, it is going to be very hard to transition back to a sugar-free lifestyle. So these little beauties are going to help me do that!

They are mainly comprised of oatmeal, almonds, and honey with a few other ingredients. 

Throw all of your ingredients, minus the chocolate chips, in a food processor and blend it.

Once everything is blended, transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the chocolate chips. The dough is very wet, sticky, and a bit chunky. If you want, you can put the almonds in the processor first to grind them up. If you don't mind some chunks of almond then put all ingredients in together. 

Spoon them onto a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. 

The original recipe came from The Gracious Pantry, big surprise, I know. But of course I tweaked the recipe a bit. I added cocoa powder and extra oatmeal. I also doubled the recipe because it doesn't make very much, and cookies don't last long in our house!

So here's the the original recipe. I'll post my version below. 

Clean Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (1/2 cup uncooked)
  • 6 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/8 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips (or regular if you want)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Blend everything except the chocolate chips in food processor. 
Scrape into a medium mixing bowl and stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon onto cookie sheet - either lined with parchment paper or spray sheet with cooking spray or olive oil
Bake for 20 minutes.


I will be using these to ween myself off of my sugar dependency. Don't get me wrong, they are clean but they still aren't "healthy"!

But I'm ok with that.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Clean Baked Ziti

Ahhh, is your mouth watering yet?

This dish was the very first clean dinner I made. I found it on the website The Gracious Pantry. This website is where I first learned a lot about clean eating and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more from someone that REALLY knows what she's talking about. I don't ever pretend to be the expert on anything, especially clean eating. I'm learning just like everyone else!

Baked Ziti is pretty much my favorite. I used to order it all the time at Olive Garden, Fazolli's, Avanti's ...or any other Italian restaurant we eat at. While those versions are oh so cheesy, melty, and CARBy...this recipe doesn't come with a side of guilt. 

We are HUGE pasta lovers in our house....which doesn't really agree with our waistlines...but our taste buds love it. When eating clean, pasta is supposed to be whole wheat. Luckily for us, we already ate whole wheat pasta so that wasn't a transition issue. The main thing that changed in this recipe for us was the sauce. And what a change! Usually when I make baked ziti, I use Prego sauce or something else in a jar. With this recipe you make your own sauce, and you can certainly tell the difference. This homemade sauce has a much lighter consistency that doesn't fill you up as much, and in my opinion, has a fresher flavor. 

All you need is a pound of turkey (or hamburger if you prefer, although healthwise turkey is better), whole wheat pasta, shredded cheese, and your sauce ingredients....

Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.

Lightly whisk ingredients until they are fully combined. Set the sauce aside.

Brown the turkey in a skillet and drain the fat. In a large pot cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. Once turkey and pasta are ready, mix them together in the pot with the sauce. 

Pour mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese. The original recipe calls for Parmesan, but we really like a Pecorino Romano from the grocery deli. Place in oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. 

How's that watering mouth doing?

This was a really great recipe to start out with for making clean dinners. It is your basic pasta dish, but with homemade sauce. If you have been thinking of eating healthier or even switching to eating clean, this is a great place to start. And once you learn the sauce recipe, you can use it for any pasta recipe in place of the jarred version. Yay!

Here's the recipe:

Clean Baked Ziti
Original Recipe by Gracious Pantry

  • 1 lb whole wheat penne pasta, cooked
  • 1 lb lean, ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce, no salt added
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta in a pot according to directions on box. While pasta cooks, brown turkey in a skillet with the olive oil.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine basil, oregano, garlic & onion powder, honey, vinegar, water, and tomato sauce. Whisk lightly.

Combine cooked pasta, cooked meat, and sauce and mix well.

Pour mixture into greased baking dish and top with cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until cheese melts. 


Friday, August 23, 2013

Clean Back-To-School Lunches

Well I finally have made it back. While it was NOT my intention to not post any blogs over the ENTIRE summer....that's sort of what happened...Whoops!

June was just an incredibly busy month, as always, and I'm still new to the blogging thing, so I had a hard time finding the time to put some posts together. 

Then, unfortunately, we had some personal circumstances happen over the rest of the summer that were beyond our control and kept me from posting until now. Someday I hope to enlighten you, but for now...let's stick to lunch!

I don't know about you, but my daughter went back to school yesterday. YAY!! Oh, I mean, boooooo.........Oh who am I kidding? Don't get me wrong, I love her dearly, but yesterday it was nice to have a large portion of the day without arguing and fighting between my two darling daughters. 

Now that it's back-to-school time, I figured lunch would be a good topic to start posting again with. I actually had this blog planned a long time ago, but it's rather fitting now. 

Before we started eating "clean", Liv's lunch consisted of PB&J sandwiches, chips, a fruit, and a juice box. Sometimes a meat sandwich would happen, but it was usually PB&J. She never really had a problem with having the same lunch everyday, or if she did she didn't make it known. 

When we started the "clean" thing, I started researching different options for school lunches, and also lunch at home for myself and my 3-year-old. I found this website, 100 Days of Real Food. I've linked up to this site before but she really has great ideas for lunches. On her facebook page she was posting daily pictures of her kids' lunch for everyone to see. As I started to realize that bag lunch didn't have to be the same old thing, a whole new world of options opened up! Suddenly Liv had lunches that were never the same thing and I was finding it fun to come up with new ideas. I was even a little jealous. I mean, I never had lunches like that when I was in school! And she loved them. She even requested to have....wait for it....SALAD one time. Just once, but I have that day recorded in the family history books.

Here is a pic of one of the lunches she took to school. Meat and cheese roll ups, grapes, applesauce, and pistachios. Plenty of protein and fruit, and no bad carbs! Totally clean lunch. Although she was wary of the pistachios, once she tried them she really like them. 

This was a lunch for Jilly. Again, meat and cheese roll-ups, carrots, and clementines. In the past when I would see a picture like this, I would say "yeah right, my kid won't eat that". And at the time they wouldn't. But when we changed how we were eating, I basically didn't give them a choice. With things like carrots or celery, I eased our way in by giving them things to dip them in, ranch dressing, ketchup (don't ask), peanut butter, etc. And over time it has gotten to the point that they will eat them without any added condiments. 

I know kids can be really picky but I honestly think that it's at least worth a shot to see if you can mold them to eat better foods. If you stick to your guns and don't back down then they hopefully will learn to like new things. Our taste buds get so desensitized by all the sugary/salty/deliciously-bad-for-you foods that when we eat fresh food like veggies they don't "taste good". 

Tortilla Pizzas
 I made these for the kids one weekend when I was running out of ideas. I had leftover olives and green peppers from a pizza I had made a few days prior so I just used tortillas instead of pizza dough. They each got their own individual pizza with some tomato sauce, grated cheese, olives, and green pepper. I popped them in the oven at 350 and just waited for the cheese to melt and the tortilla to get a little crispy. Pretty easy and the kids loved them!

There are ALL kinds of options for lunch other than PB&J. And a lot of them can also avoid bread and chips or other empty calories. Here are some of the items I give my kids for lunches. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any more food ideas to share! I'm always looking for more!

  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Meat & Cheese Roll Ups
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Greek Yogurt with berries
  • String Cheese
  • Tortilla roll up w/ Banana & PB (or Almond Butter)
  • Celery & PB w/ raisins
  • PB&J Smoothie (frozen in smoothie tube that thaws by lunch)
  • Veggies - Carrots, Sweet Peppers
  • Fruits - Grapes, Oranges, Apples, Berries, Pineapple, etc
  • Nuts - Almonds, Peanuts, Pistachios, Sunflower Seeds
  • Homemade Trail Mix - Raisins, Nuts, Craisins, Seeds
  • Nut Thins, Lunch Meat & Cheese (homemade lunchables)
  • Leftovers from dinner the night before
  • Homemade Protein Bars
  • Tortilla Pizzas
  • Tortilla Chips and Salsa
  • Tortilla Chips w/ Salsa & Cottage Cheese (Just TRY it!)
And the list goes on....

The one thing I realized is that there is no rule that says you can only have one fruit or vegetable in your lunch. Kids LOVE fruit, so go ahead and put strawberries AND grapes in their lunch.

So what do you think? Worth a try? Hopefully you have some ideas here that can get you and your kids started on healthier lunches. Just remember to make them try it more than once, they will learn to like it! (And so will you!)

Do you have any other ideas?? Please share!

Happy Back-To-School Days!!